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For at least a generation, the phrase “religious right” has evoked a style of politics marked by hortatory rhetoric, foreign-policy interventionism, and support for the free movement of people and goods. This version of Christian politics reached its zenith during the George W. Bush administration, when a glut of books warned that theocracy was impending in America.

In the event, things worked out differently. Not only did the Bush-era Christian right fail to take over America; in 2016 it lost control of its own party. Donald Trump won the Republican nomination, and then the presidency, with a way of speaking that was more impish than moralizing. He made no pretense of being committed to Christian sexual morality. And he challenged his party’s assumptions on immigration, trade, and foreign policy.

Something important has changed in the way religious Americans approach politics. Free trade and open borders are out; economic moderation and immigration restriction are in. Along with a shift in policy, there has been a shift in tone, reflecting a growing sense of alienation. To understand the reasons for this transformation, I sat down with JD Vance, the young senator from Ohio and author of the bestselling memoir Hillbilly Elegy, in his senate office. He is perhaps the most eloquent champion of a new Christian approach to politics—one that is less conventionally conservative, and more populist.

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